Turkey renews free treatment scheme helping smokers quit

Turkey renews free treatment scheme helping smokers quit

A new presidential decree signed by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Turkey’s most prominent anti-smoking activist, on Thursday, offers free medication for people trying to quit smoking. The decree is actually a new chapter in a program that was launched a decade ago and involves an array of medications to help people quit tobacco products, courtesy of the Health Ministry.

Under the new decree, everyone engaged in a treatment program to quit smoking, regardless of their social security status, will be entitled to medication. Due to the high costs, the number of smokers to benefit from the decree is limited to 500,000.

The medication will be available at clinics dedicated to quitting smoking in hospitals and clinics run by the Health Ministry. Among the free medications are “nicotine replacements, drugs containing bupropion and varenicline,” which are two common drugs used to suppress cravings for cigarettes and other tobacco products.

Authorities have imposed strict bans and hiked the price of tobacco products. Nevertheless, smoking remains a major public health concern for Turkey, with occasional upward trends in the number of smokers. A hotline set up by the Health Ministry 11 years ago seeks to curb the smoking rate in the country where 15 million people partake in the harmful habit. The 171 hotline caters to callers seeking to quit the habit which created the phrase “to smoke like a Turk.” Staffed by health care professionals, the hotline operates around-the-clock and fields some 3,000 calls daily. The operators give advice to callers and follow up on their progress by calling them back to check in regularly. Last year alone, 25% of callers managed to quit smoking with the assistance of the hotline. The hotline also offers free advice to smokers on how to cope with the effects of quitting smoking. Each person is provided with a personalized plan for quitting after their nicotine addiction levels are determined through tests. Then, they are directed to clinics across the country which provide treatment for the addiction. Currently, there are 537 clinics that operate in Turkey. More than 3 million people checked into those clinics since they started operations in 2010, and more than 1.2 million people were given medication to help them kick the habit.

Source: Daily Sabah

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